The activist group Move LA held its “L.A. on the Verge’ event at Union Station on Friday, with a big focus on transportation funding.
The group is headed by former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane, who clearly let the hundreds in attendance know his position: the Measure R sales tax increase that expires in 2039 should be extended by voters.
Such an extension could accomplish two things, according to Zane: 1) It could help accelerate the building of the 12 Measure R transit projects if Congress doesn’t fully adopt the America Fast Forward plan (and they’re not likely to), and; 2) It may help finance additional transit and highway projects beyond the original Measure R package approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.
EXPO LINE UPDATE, SORT OF: I was along the Expo Line alignment early Saturday evening and it was exciting to see the number and frequency of trains running along the tracks between La Cienega and downtown L.A. at night.
As for an opening date….still no official word. But I can tell you that testing is going well. Some approvals are still needed by local safety officials and the state Public Utilities Commission before the line can be opened to the public (as is always the case). Hopefully there will be good news fairly soon.
HIGH-SPEED RAIL: I think it’s positive news that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is working on agreements with commuter rail agencies in both Northern and Southern California.
The agreement, as has been reported by the media, would provide money for electrifying and speeding up Caltrain service between San Jose and San Francisco and upgrade Metrolink for faster trips between the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles. That’s a big upside in my view — because commuter rail is something that many people use most workdays and it helps alleviate traffic in metro areas.
The Rosa Parks station on the Blue Line. Photo by Sean_Marshall, via Flickr creative commons.
It’s kind of an obvious statement: rail and busway stations are the gateway for the tens of thousands of passengers entering the Metro system each day. And since most people have to spend at least a few of minutes at stations, the quality of time spent there is crucial to the overall transit experience.
In that vein, a motion by Metro Board Chair and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seeks to improve rail and bus stations across the Metro system with specific mention of Blue Line stations. The motion would also put aside $10 million in the Metro budget to pay for upgrades.
The Metro Board of Directors will consider the motion at tomorrow’s Board meeting at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters.
I think there’s a lot of interesting things in this motion and I encourage you to read it. Among the issues tackled in the motion are wayfinding and signage, network connections to stations, noise at Green Line stations (most are in the middle of the 105 freeway) and expanding a Metro grant program to help cities zone and plan transit-oriented developments.
We’ll have more tomorrow after the Board considers the motion.
Here is the agenda for the regular monthly meeting of the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday at Metro headquarters adjacent to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. (The html version of agenda is here).
The big item for this Thursday is the consideration by the Board of the Regional Connector’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report. A discussion on locking the turnstiles at some Metro Rail stations is also the on agenda.
This update from Metro’s government relations staff doesn’t make it sound as if a bill will be burping out of the Senate anytime soon:
U.S. Senate Holds Procedural Vote on Surface Transportation Bill
Earlier today, the U.S. Senate failed to invoke cloture (54-42) on an amendment offered by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that sought to consolidate language for the surface transportation bill that had been adopted by the Banking, Commerce and Finance Committees. Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture. The vote today ensures that the surface transportation bill will remain pending before the body for a number of weeks as Senate leaders seek to limit the number of amendments that will be offered to the underlying bill (S.1813). Over one hundred fifty amendments have been offered to the bill, with Leader Reid claiming that a number of them are non-germane. Among the most prominent non-transportation related amendments expected to be offered during consideration of the surface transportation bill is an amendment by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) which, if adopted, would permit health insurance plans to decline to cover an item if it is against the issuer’s religious beliefs.
Move L.A. is a transit advocacy group that made a big push for Measure R in 2008 and has continued to push for more transit — and more transit funding — in Los Angeles County. The group’s fourth annual transit discussion next Friday promises to be an interesting one with panels discussing America Fast Forward and the possibility of asking voters to extend the Measure R sales tax past its 2039 expiration. Several prominent Metro staffers will be speaking, including CEO Art Leahy. Here’s the link for tickets to the event for those interested in attending.